1966 Mustang Coupe
Through some sort of miracle, early Mustangs are still affordable—probably because they made so many millions of them. That only applies to the coupe version though. Cheap, however, doesn't always parlay into "good deal," because many Mustangs this price outside of desert regions are just rust in the shape of a car. That said, the $4,750 asking price on this complete and running model is a steal (it's also got a V-8 swap!) because the little rust it has is all on the surface. The mostly original paint also tells us that it hasn't been subject to hacked collision repair.
Why It's Cool: Own a piece of history with the car that started the ponycar revolution.
1996 Buick Roadmaster
It's not a muscle car, or even a classic yet, but it will be soon. The 1994-96 GM B-body (Chevy Caprice, Buick Roadmaster, Cadillac Fleetwood) had the strong LT1 from the Camaro and Corvette, but with iron heads and lower compression so it runs on 87 octane. These Roadmasters are luxurious, they ride smooth, and they are surprisingly fast. (The Impala SS was the same car.) The thing about Roadmasters, which often topped $30,000 when new, is that hot rodders never bought them, so they rarely got abused. Being that Phoenix is not only a haven for rust-free iron but also a haven for retiring blue hairs, unmolested versions can be found in abundance. This one was absolutely immaculate—like showroom perfect—for only $6,500. Snag it for $5K and drive it like you stole it, because you did!
Why It's Cool: Room for six adults in leather-lined comfort plus you get to blow away snotty-nosed import kids at every light.
If you're a risk taker and want something really fun, something like this straight 1958 Cadillac might do the trick. The patina on this Caddy took 55 years for it to look this nice, so the biggest question is how nice do you want the interior and running gear to be? As you might've figured, it's a Texas car (what else do they drive there?), and the owner claims it even runs. The asking price was $5,200, and when you divide that out by weight, it's got to be the best deal on a dollar-per-pound basis.
Why It's Cool: Built at the peak of Detroit's classic fin era, this Caddy is the word in over-the-top Yankee opulence. The patina is absolutely nailed!
1967 Plymouth Fury
A big C-Body like this 1967 Fury might be your thing. There's plenty of room inside for friends and family, and pre-1968 Mopars had nicer, quality-oriented interiors. The one-year-only 1967 grille and body lines are classic Mopar, but we'd dump those wagon wheels. Word to the wise: Big cars like this have acres of sheetmetal, most of it not straight, so fixing it can cost a lot if you aren't careful. This one was reasonably straight, and if you could talk the seller off his optimistic perch of $7,995 down to the correct price of $4K, it's a deal—if the seller hasn't drunk the Mopar Kool-Aid!
Why It's Cool: You can't load a family of six into a Barracuda or even a Belvedere, but the SportsRoof Fury will get the job done with room—and looks—to spare.
1977 Pontiac Trans Am
We're coming out of the block hard with this cream puff. Great newer paint, a nice stock interior, power brakes, power steering, Turbo 400 automatic, no detectable rust, and a shaker-equipped 455 Pontiac motor make this car's $6,500 asking price a sweet deal. This car most likely found a new home somewhere in the mid $5K area.
Why It's Cool: The muscle car era was over by 1977, but Burt Reynolds and Smokey & The Bandit kept the performance fire lit over at Pontiac well into the late 1970s. The pinnacle of muscle car styling inside and out, but long after most people had lost interest.
1959 Edsel Wagon
Nearly every one of our "alternative criteria" for buying an affordable project is satisfied by this 1959 Edsel. It is an "oddball," a wagon, a large car, and one from a less desirable year all at once. While it's not the best fodder for a fire-breathing ground-pounding street machine, it makes for a wonderful head-turning cruiser and we're sure somebody will have a lot of great times in it. This Tucson-area car had straight metal, no rust, a nice patina, superclean original interior, functional running gear, and a great southwest vibe. If Chad Reynolds of BangShift.com had been there, he would've bought it on the spot. Load up the kids and hit the road, Kennedy-era style!
Why It's Cool: Score it for $2,500 and make it the ultimate grocery getter. You'll meet a lot of cool people in this thing!
1962 Buick Special
Cars built before 1964 don't really qualify for muscle car status, but sometimes that's not important. This lightweight Buick Skylark Special convertible had a brand-new top (an expensive fix), a cherry interior, and original paint with a light patina of door dings. The biggest thing we saw was a small tweak to the front bumper. The 215ci aluminum V-8 underhood makes a nice conversation piece, but otherwise this is more open-air cruiser than powerhouse. The guy was asking $6,750, but it would probably sell at $5K.
Why It's Cool: Buicks don't often get much love from rank-and-file car enthusiasts, but what they do get comes from a loyal, rabid following. The Skylark is quirky, but cool.
1973 Mercury Comet
Right next to the Buick was this intriguing 1973 Comet. Otherwise identical to the Ford Maverick except for some small cosmetic differences, we know these cars can be made into badass hot rods because they're lightweight and can easily accommodate a V-8 powertrain. This one, in fact, already has a warmed-over 302ci small-block Ford, not to mention a straight body and a serviceable interior. We think we could easily talk the seller down from his $6,750 asking price.
Why It's Cool: Comets and Mavericks are rope-a-dope designs, meaning they look awkward and goofy with stock wheels and tires, but absolutely come to life with the right rolling stock and stance.
1969 Chevy Impala
Once again, the feature of a less-desired formal roofline has conspired with a larger fullsized platform to create a swinging deal. At first sight, it might look like a refugee from an episode of Baretta, but this 396ci big-block Turbo 400 equipped Impala is a genuine one-owner Arizona car with original paint, no rust, and only minor parking lot rash. Even the original eight-track tape player still works. The owner claims it runs great, and subject to verification, we think the $4,700 ask is pretty close. We'd offer the guy $4K, and drive it home. Keep the patina, put it on wheels and tires that fit the car, and drive the piss out of it.
Why It's Cool: This would make a great first hot rod for your 18-year-old. Cool, inexpensive, roomy, but not fast enough to get into much trouble.